No. 2 Alabama ready for Kiffin-led Ole Miss
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator for three seasons at Alabama.
During that time (2014-16), the Crimson Tide won three SEC championships and one national championship.
The two will have a chance to get reacquainted when Saban’s No. 2 Crimson Tide (2-0) visit Kiffin’s Rebels (1-1) on Saturday.
“I think that’s a storyline,” Kiffin said, “but I don’t think it’s really that big a deal. We worked together for three years, (I) learned a lot from him, had a great run, very productive teams with a lot of great players and a lot of great wins.
“We have the No. 1 team in the country coming in. In my opinion, the premier program in the country. No offense to Clemson, you know, those are the two premier programs that are operating the highest level over the last, whatever, 10 years. And this one’s doing it in the SEC, so it’s a little bit harder.”
Kiffin is in his first season at Ole Miss after three seasons as the head coach at Florida Atlantic.
If the two coaches’ familiarity with one another is a factor, it doesn’t seem to favor Kiffin. Saban is 20-0 in games against head coaches who worked for him.
Saban ran his record to 4-0 against former assistant Jimbo Fisher in a 52-24 victory against Texas A&M last Saturday. Kiffin, who also was a head coach at Southern California, was Tennessee’s head coach in 2009 and lost to Saban’s Tide 12-10.
“Everybody says (the former assistants) know him,” Kiffin said. “Well, he knows the assistants. I think it goes both ways.”
Another storyline involves the quarterbacks — the Tide’s Mac Jones and the Rebels’ Matt Corral. Jones leads the country in passing efficiency, and Corral is third.
In a loss to Florida and a win against Kentucky, Corral has completed 76.7 percent of his passes for 715 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
“(Corral) is a really, really good player,” Saban said. “He’s very athletic. He can make plays with his feet, present a lot of problems in terms of how they’re playing on offense.”
Jones completed 20 of 27 for 435 yards and four touchdowns and one interception against the Aggies. Kiffin was at Alabama when Saban was recruiting Jones, who chose to join a program that already had Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback.
“I always thought the cool thing about Mac was, everybody said, ‘Why would you go there with Tua?'” Kiffin said. “And he didn’t care. He was very competitive and really confident in himself.”
The Saturday game has the potential to turn into a shootout. It’s not just because of the quarterbacks, but also because of the defenses.
Ole Miss allowed 51 points in the loss to Florida and 41 in the overtime win against Kentucky.
Alabama’s young pass defense did not play up to the Saban standard in the victory against the Aggies or in a 38-19 victory against Missouri a week earlier.
“I think the mental errors led to several explosive plays where we didn’t have somebody covered (against Texas A&M),” Saban said. “We need to get better.”
Saban said he did think the pass defense was better against the Aggies than it was against the Tigers in the opener.
–Field Level Media